Chapter 25

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Art never went to see a therapist, but he often read how telling someone your troubles would make you feel better. Those people lied. Telling Natalya about Ellen hadn't made him feel better. He still blamed himself for her death.

Afterward, Natalya had thanked him for trusting her with his feelings. She told him their shared confessions made her feel closer to him. He had to admit he was growing closer to her too.

What would come of it though?

They chose an outdoor café along the riverwalk for breakfast. Having skipped dinner the night before, Art was ravenous and ordered a western omelet with hash browns, bacon, and toast. Being a bit hungover, Natalya stuck with yogurt.

Spring in San Antonio sometimes brought hot and humid afternoons. Art hoped the ten o'clock appointment with Carlos Santos would end before things got too torrid. After paying the breakfast bill, Art's knees popped when he stood, and it took him a moment to straighten his back.

Natalya noticed.

"I must've strained a muscle sitting in those cramped airline seats all day yesterday," he said, but in the past few years his back had become an issue. It wasn't the seats, Art knew. It was him feeling his age.

While walking toward the LODO offices, Art said, "I've been thinking about our strategy for our Santos meeting. After introductions, I think you should take the lead. Pretend like you don't suspect anything is off. Ask questions about your husband." He gave her a few examples of what to ask.

"What do you hope to accomplish by me asking the questions?"

"It'll serve two purposes. First, he's going to be off-balance because you are with me. I want to sit back and observe his reaction. Second, your softball questions will put him at ease and get him talking. It's my experience that conversation has momentum. Once Santos is loosened up, I'm hoping he'll continue to be forthcoming when I ask him more probing questions."

It took them fifteen minutes to hike to the address of the Lobo Dorado offices. The building wasn't fancy, a post-world war II structure constructed of brick with a revolving lobby door. Art counted eight stories. He and Natalya pushed through and found themselves standing in the lobby of a bank that occupied the first floor.

They checked the building directory adjacent to the elevators. LODO occupied the fourth and fifth floors.

"Do we go to four or five?" Natalya asked.

Feeling a bit embarrassed, Art said, "I need to find a men's room first." He had already used the bathroom before leaving the café. His overactive bladder was a damn nuisance.

"That's a good idea. I should go too," she said. Art didn't know if she needed to go, or if she was just being agreeable.

They met back at the elevators and decided to press the button for the fourth floor. A receptionist greeted them when the elevator doors opened. Art stated their business. The receptionist checked a computer screen and said, "I'll have someone escort you."

Minutes later, they sat in an interior waiting area. Art observed the décor. Nothing fancy. Their seats were typical vinyl-covered office chairs, the walls painted institutional gray, a suspended ceiling with fluorescent lighting. A few prints hung on the walls depicting desert scenes. No original oil paintings. He had expected something more upscale from a multi-million dollar mineral exploration company.

Carlos Santos appeared from one of the doors adjacent to the waiting area. Art recognized him from the photos he dug up during his research. He wore a simple white shirt and a tie and a welcoming grin. Extending a hand first toward Natalya, he said, "Mrs. Henson, it's a pleasure to meet you."

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